By Cory Warren
Published: 10/10/2018, edited: 10/08/2021
It’s a treat for both you and your dog when you give your dog a treat. You get the pleasure of knowing you’ve made your pup happy, and your pup gets a tasty morsel of food.
The trick to treating your dog is to not overdo the treats — or his regular food, for that matter — and to make sure she’s getting the exercise he needs to stay trim and healthy. Turns out, overweight dogs are a problem in the United States. And it’s up to the humans to do something about it.Today is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day. Ernie Ward, the veterinarian who founded the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), says obesity is the number one health threat pets face.
More than half of U.S. dogs — some 56 percent — are overweight. That’s according to a 2017 survey sponsored by APOP. As with humans, obesity can lead to health issues for dogs. These include osteoarthritis, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and respiratory disease, and some cancers. It can even lead to a decreased life expectancy for your dog — by more than two years.
The chart below from the American Veterinary Medical Association provides a simple but informative overview of a dog’s appearance, from very thin to obese. One of the best ways to assess if your dog’s weight is healthy is to look down on them as they’re standing still. You want to see a waistline. If you don’t, and your dog's shape is more oval, he's likely overweight.
If you think your dog is overweight, it’s probably a good time to make an appointment with your veterinarian. She can assess his weight and also help determine if any related health problems need to be addressed. And she can talk to you about what and how much your dog is eating — food and treats — and the amount of exercise your dog is getting.
Assuming your vet determines your dog is overweight, but otherwise healthy and just needs to eat less and exercise more, here are some ways to do that:
Monitor your dog’s food intake. Your vet can help you determine if you're overfeeding your dog, but it’s up to you — no matter how much Fido begs — to control how much food is in the dog bowl.
Give him the right food — and the right amount. Is your dog a puppy? Then puppy food is perfect. But if your dog is older, make sure you’re giving him the right food for his age. And if you change food for any reason, be sure to read and follow the feeding instructions on the new kind. They may be different.
Limit or eliminate treats. Yes, this one may be tough, but it’s essential. Calories are calories, no matter how they’re consumed. If you want to continue treating your dog, set aside a bit of his regular food to use as treats during the day.
Exercise your dog. A couple of 30-minute walks every day can help ensure your dog is not only burning calories but also benefiting in other ways. If your schedule doesn’t allow this, consider a Wag! walker to make sure he’s getting out and about.
Have some fun with your dog! Whether it’s a game of fetch or tug of war, playing with your dog can burn canine calories and help you bond with your pet. On weekends or other days when you have extra time, consider a hike or a visit to an off-leash park where your dog can run, play, and engage with other furry friends.
You’ll find more information about dogs and obesity elsewhere on our site. The more you know, the better able you’ll be to help your four-legged family member live a long, healthy life. And that’s the best kind of treat — for both of you.
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